Later, only mehndi powder was available in the market. We had to add water, \eucalyptus oil and make it into a nicely flowing paste. Cones were prepared at home filled with this paste and use. After applying mehndi, lemon juice and sugar juice was applied to ensure that it stuck to the palm for a long time. After a few hours, it was scrapped out and not washed with water. The next day a few cloves were placed on a vessel heated on a stove. The palms were exposed to the vapours from the cloves. We were told that it enhanced the effect of the mehndi.
Then came the use of hand made cones in which the paste was filled, but while the earlier types of paste mentioned first were solid, these cones had more easily flowing paste.
Mehndi designs are quite popular for the intricate patterns that are usually drawn on the palms and the arms. Originally, mehndi or mehandi designs as they are called were drawn with the leaves of a plant called maruthani in Tamil (and henna in English). The leaves are crushed and formed into a paste. The paste is then applied on the palm, fingers. Due to the inherent property of the leaves a reddish colour is formed after a few hours.
Nowadays it is very difficult to get marudhani ( henna ) leaves in Chennai . There are no plants in the neighbourhood too. So I got it from Koyambedu market from my local vendor who forgot many times. After reminding her several times, finally I got the branches. Some of the leaves had dried but I had no choice.
Remove the leaves from the branches. Put them in a mixer jar and grind them into a fine paste. It takes some time to grind them because leaves do not resist grinding ! In an intermediate stage add lemon juice by squeezing a slice of lemon. Lemon makes the design on the palm appear redder. After grinding into a fine paste, remove the few leaves which refused to get ground (!) and apply on the tips of the fingers by covering the fingers and on the centre of the palm as a circle as shown in the step by step procedure in the images below. After six hours, the marudhani dries leaving simple henna or mehndi designs on the palm. This is the traditional method of applying mehndi followed in many parts of Southern India.
Traditional marudhani designs
Applying marudhani patterns on the palm are an important part of celebration of Varalakshmi Vratham and Navratri apart from Diwali
I have tried some mehndi designs using rangoli designs in Rangoli-sans-dots. They are available in Rangolisansdots. There are some designs drawn with rangoli powder that can also be used for mehndi patterns are also there.
The design starts from the base of the palm because it easier that way. Start from the base of the palm, proceed towards the centre and finally add the patterns on the fingers. If any gaps are there after completion they can be filled with small patterns as I have done at the base of the fingers.